Relation of personal boundaries to communication style among urban firefighters

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Diane M. Millette - Committee Chair


This study explored the relation of personal boundaries to communication style. Using Hartman's (1991) construct of thin- and thick-bounded personalities, it examined the behavior of urban firefighters to see if permeability (e.g., melding or differentiating personalities) affects message content or delivery. The research analyzed the relation of personal boundaries to communicator style, adaptability, compliance gaining, and conflict style. Findings suggest thick-bounded participants communicated with precision and used messages functionally for self-expression and to achieve specific goals. Their messages were presented in logical, linear sequences with little personal disclosure until after establishing relational trust. Thick scorers were resistant to adapting message content or delivery and claimed little awareness of making adjustments to the needs of others. They used coercive power and assertiveness to influence. Thin-bounded firefighters, used messages to satisfy both functional and relational needs and were intensely focused on the needs of conversational others. They were more consistently expressive across topics, situations, and context. Thin-bounded firefighters used self-disclosure and open communication styles to establish intimacy. They employed a broad range of adaptations and used soft forms of personal influence such as identification and internalization.


Speech Communication; Psychology, Industrial; Psychology, Personality

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